Page images
PDF
EPUB

years after Hooke's loving reference to an alarm on the trumpet, and proclaimed King Charles there was something omi- that the General Court protested against nous in the cool self-control with which any such meeting. He then departed to the people of Massachusetts refrained from make similar proclamation in other parts either approving or disapproving his ex- of the town; and when the royal comecution. It was equally ominous when missioners came together they found nothey abstained from recognizing the acces- body with whom to confer but the gouty sion of Richard Cromwell, and when they and irate Colonel Cartwright, enraged at let fifteen months pass before sending a the disturbance of his morning slumbers. congratulatory address to Charles II. It So perished all hope of coercing the Massawas the beginning of a policy of indif- chusetts colony at that time. ference more significant than any policy Thus early did the British yoke begin of resistance. When in 1660, under that to make itself felt as a grievance. The monarch, the Act of Navigation was passed, Massachusetts men discreetly allayed the prescribing that no merchandise should be effect of their protest by sending his Majimported into the plantations but in Eng- esty a ship-load of masts, the freight on lish vessels navigated by Englishmen, the which cost the colony £1600. For ten New England colonies simply ignored it. years the quarrel subsided : England had During sixteen years the Massachusetts trouble enough with the London fire and Governor, annually elected by the people, the London plague without meddling with never once took the oath which the Nav- the colonies. Then the contest revived, igation Act required of him; and when and while the colonies were in the deaththe courageous Leverett was called to ac- struggle of Philip's war, Edward Randolph count for this he answered, “The King came as commissioner with a king's letter can in reason do no less than let us en- in 1675. Two years later the Massachujoy our liberties and trade, for we have setts colonists made for the first time the made this large plantation of our own distinct assertion to the King, while pledgcharge, without any contribution from ing their loyalty, that “the laws of Engthe crown.” Four years after the Act of land were bounded within the four seas, Navigation, in 1664, the English fleet and did not reach America,” giving as a brought royal commissioners to Boston, reason for this, "they (the colonists] not with instructions aiming at farther ag- being represented in Parliament." Then gression; and there was great dignity in followed the long contest for the charter, the response of the General Court, made while Edward Randolph, like a sort of Methrough Governor Endicott, October 30, phistopheles, was constantly coming and 1664: "The all-knowing God he knowes going between America and England with our greatest ambition is to liue a poore and fresh complaints and new orders, crossing quiet life in a corner of the world, without the Atlantic eight times in nine years, and offence to God or man. Wee came not having always, by his own statement, into this wilderness to seeke great things pressed the necessity of a general Governto ourselves, and if any come after vs to or as absolutely necessary for the honor and seeke them heere, they will be disappoint- service of the crown." All this long series ed." They then declare that to yield to of contests has been minutely narrated by the demands of the commissioners would Mr. Charles Deane, with a thoroughness be simply to destroy their own liberties, and clearness which would have won him a expressly guaranteed to them by their world-wide reputation had they only been King, and dearer than their lives.

brought to bear upon the history of some The commissioners visited other colo- little European state. Again and again, nies and then returned to Boston, where in different forms, the attempt was made they announced that they should hold a to take away the charters of the colonies; court at the house of Captain Thomas and the opposition was usually led, at Breedon on Hanover Street, at 9 A.M., least in New England, by the clergy. InMay 24, 1665. It happened that a brother crease Mather, in 1683–4, addressed a town officer of Captain Breedon, one Colonel meeting in opposition to one such demand, Cartwright, who had come over with the and openly counselled that they should commissioners, was then lying ill with return Naboth's answer when Ahab asked the gout at this same house. At eight in for his vineyard, that they would not give the morning a messenger of the General up the inheritance of their fathers. Court appeared beneath the window, blew It must be remembered that all the early charters were defective in this, that | fasting and prayer.' And it required they did not clearly define where the line not merely these methods, but something was to be drawn between the rights of the more, to eject Sir Edmund at last from local government and of the crown. . We the colonies. can see now that such definition would The three years' sway of Sir Edmund have been impossible; even the promise Andros accustomed the minds of the given to Lord Baltimore that Maryland American colonists to a new relation beshould have absolute self-government did tween themselves and England. Even not avert all trouble. It is also to be re- where the old relation was not changed in membered that there were great legal dif- form it was changed in feeling. The coloficulties in annulling a charter, so long as nies which had seemed most secure in their the instrument itself had not been re- self-government were liable at any moclaimed by the power that issued it. We ment to become mere royal provinces. Inread with surprise of a royal scheme deed, they were officially informed that his thwarted by so simple a process as the hid- Majesty had decided to unite under one ing of the Connecticut charter in a hollow government all the English territories tree by William Wadsworth; but an al- in America, from Delaware Bay to Nova most vital importance was attached in those Scotia,” though this was not really atdays to the actual possession of the instru- tempted. Yet charters were taken away ment. It was considered the most moment- almost at random, colonies were divided ous of all the Lord Chancellor's duties- or united without the consent of their inindeed, that from which he had his name habitants, and the violation of the right (cancellarius)—to literally cancel and ob- of local government was everywhere felt. literate the King's letters patent under the But in various ways, directly or indirectgreat seal. Hence, although the old charly, the purposes of Andros were thwarted. ter of Massachusetts was vacated Octo- | When the English revolution of 1688 ber 23, 1684, it has always been doubted came, his power fell without a blow, and by lawyers whether this was ever legally he found himself in the hands of the rebelldone, inasmuch as the old charter never ious men of Boston. The day had passed was cancelled, and hangs intact in the of- by when English events could be merely fice of the Massachusetts Secretary of State ignored, and so every colony proclaimed to this day. In 1686 came the new Gov- with joy the accession of William and ernor for the colonies--not the dreaded | Mary. Such men as Jacob Leisler, in Colonel Kirke, who had been fully ex- New York, Robert Treat, in Connecticut, pected, but the less formidable Sir Edmund and the venerable Simon BradstreetAndros.

now eighty-seven years old-in MassaThe first foretaste of the provincial life chusetts, were at once recognized as the as distinct from the merely colonial was leaders of the people. There was some in the short-lived career of Sir Edmund temporary disorder, joined with high hope, Andros. He came, a brilliant courtier, but the colonies never really regained what among the plain Americans; his servants they had lost, and henceforth held, more wore gay liveries; Lady Andros had the or less distinctly, the character of provfirst coach seen in Boston. He was at dif- inces until they took their destiny, long ferent times Governor-General of Massa- after, into their own hands. It needed chusetts, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, almost a century to prepare them for that Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and event, not only by their increasing sense of Virginia. Everywhere he was received grievance, but by learning to stretch out with aversion, but everywhere this was their hands to one another. tempered by the feeling that it might With the fall of the colonial charters have been worse, for it might have been fell the New England confederacy that Kirke. Yet there was exceeding frank- had existed from 1643. There were other ness in the way the colonists met their plans of union: William Penn formed a would-be tyrant. When he visited Hart- very elaborate one in 1698; others laborford, Connecticut, for instance, he meted afterward in pamphlets to modify his Dr. Hooker one morning, and said, “I plan or to suggest their own. On nine suppose all the good people of Connect different occasions, between 1684 and 1751, icut are fasting and praying on my ac- three or more colonies met in council, repcount." The doctor replied, “ Yes; we resented by their Governors or by their read, “This kind goeth not out but by commissioners, to consult on internal af

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

fairs, usually with reference to the In- was on their part even a denser ignorance dians; but they apparently never had a as to American affairs than that which thought of disloyalty, and certainly never now impresses the travelling American in proclaimed independence; nor did their England. When he is asked if he came meetings for a long time suggest any from America by land, it is only a matter alarm in the minds of the British minis- for amusement; but when, as James Otis try. The new jealousies that arose re- tells us—writing in 1764–it was not unlated rather to commercial restrictions common for official papers to come from than to the form of government.

an English Secretary of State addressed It is necessary to remember that even to "the Governor of the island of New in colonial days, while it was of the gr England,” it was a more serious matter. est importance that the British law-makers Under such circumstances the home govshould know all about the colonies, there ernment was liable at any minute to be then, the child learning to do without the parent? And certainly the effect on the minds of the Americans looked like any. thing but the development of humility. Already the colonies, from Massachusetts to Virginia, were eagerly planning the conquest of Canada, they to furnish the whole land force and Great Britain the fleet-a project which failed through the fears of the British ministry. The Duke of Bedford, then at the head of the naval service, frankly objected to it because of “the independence it might create in these provinces, when they shall see within. themselves so great an army possessed by so great a country by right of conquest." And the Swedish traveller, Peter Kalm, writing three years later from New York, put the whole matter yet more clearly, thus : “ There is reason for doubting whether the King, if he had the power,

would wish to drive the French from JAMES OTIS. — From a painting by I. Blackburn, 1955 their possessions in Canada .... The Eng.

lish government has therefore reason to

regard the French in North America as swept away from all just policy by some the chief power that urges their colonies angry tale told by Randolph or Andros. to submission.” Any such impressions The prevalent British feeling toward the were naturally confirmed by the fact that colonies was one of indifference, broken the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, in the same only by outbursts of anger and spasms of year when Kalm wrote, provided for the commercial selfishness.

mutual restoration of all conquests, and The event which startled the British | the indignant American colonists saw ministry from this indifference was the Louisburg go back to the French. taking of Louisburg in 1745.

This suc

The trouble was that the British govcess may have been, as has been asserted, ernment wished the colonies to unite sufonly a lucky accident; no matter, it star- ficiently to check the French designs, but tled not only America, but Europe. That not enough to assert their own power

. a fortress deemed impregnable by French Thus the ministry positively encouraged engineers, and amply garrisoned by French the convention of delegates from the New soldiers, should have been captured by a England colonies and from New York, inob of farmers and fishermen-this gave Pennsylvania, and Maryland which met subject for reflection. “Every one knows at Albany, by a happy coincidence of date, the importance of Louisburg," wrote James on July 4, 1754. It was in this convenOtis, proudly, “in the consultations of tion that Franklin began that course of Aix-la-Chapelle.” Voltaire, in writing national influence which was so long conthe history of Louis XV., heads the chap- tinued, and brought forward his famous ter of the calamities of France with this representation of the snake dismembered, event. He declares that the mere under with the motto, “Unite or Die." He taking of such an enterprise showed of showed also his great power of organizing what a community was capable when it and harmonizing public movements by united the spirit of trade and of war. The carrying through the convention a plan siege of Louisburg, he says, was not due for a council of forty-eight members disto the cabinet at London, but solely to the tributed among the different colonies, and daring of the New England traders (“ ce having for its head a royal presiding offifut le fruit de la hardiesse des marchands cer with veto power. All the delegates, de la Nouvelle Angleterre"). But while except those from Connecticut, sustained the feeling inspired on the European con- the plan; it was only when it went to the tinent was one of respect, that created in several colonies and the British ministry England was mingled with dread. Was, that it failed. Its failure in these two directions came from diametrically opposite ern settlements, which had suffered most reasons; the colonies thought that it gave in the Indian wars, were again to suffer them too little power, and the King's Coun- most from oppression. An English politicil found in it just the reverse fault. It fail. cal economist of 1690, in a tract included ed, but its failure left on the public mind in the Harleian Miscellany, pointed out an increased feeling of separate interests that there were two classes of colonies in between England and America. Merely America; that England need have no jeato have conceived such a plan was a lousy of colonies which raised only sugar great step toward the American Union and tobacco, and thus gave her a market; which came afterward ; but still there but she must keep anxious watch on those was no conscious shrinking from the colonies which disputed that traffic, comBritish yoke.

[graphic]

peted with England in fishing and trade, The ten colonies which had a separate and “threatened in time a total independexistence in 1700 had half a century la ence therefrom.” “When America shall ter grown to thirteen. Delaware, after be so well peopled, civilized, and divided having been merged in Pennsylvania, was into kingdoms," wrote Sir Thomas Browne again separated from it in 1703; North and about the same time, “they are like to South Carolina were permanently divided have so little regard of their originals as in 1729; Georgia was settled in 1733. No to acknowledge no subjection unto them.” colony had a nobler foundation; it was all the long series of arbitrary measures planned by its founder—a British general which followed were but the effort of the and a member of Parliament-expressly as British government to avert this danger. a refuge for poor debtors and other unfor- The conquest of Canada, by making the tunates; the colony was named Georgia in colonies more important, only disposed honor of the King; but it was given to the ministry to enforce obnoxious laws the proprietors "in trust for the poor, that had hitherto been dead letters. and its seal had a family of silk-worms, Such laws were the “ Navigation Act," with the motto, “Not for yourselves” (Sic and the “Sugar Act," and what were vos non vobis). Oglethorpe always kept known generally as the “Acts of Trade," friendship with the Indians; he refused all aimed at the merchants of New Engto admit either slavery or ardent spirits land and New York. Out of this grew into the colony. But his successors did | the "Writs of Assistance,” which gave not adhere to his principles, and the colony was small and weak up to the time of the coming separation from England. Yet the growth of the colonies as a whole was strong and steady. Bancroft estimates their numbers in 1754 at 1,185,000 whites and 260,500 colored, making in all nearly a million and a half. Counting the whites only, Massachusetts took the lead in population; counting both races, Virginia. “Some few towns excepted, wrote Dickinson soon after, “we are all tillers of the earth, from Nova Scotia to West Florida. We are a people of culti vators, scattered over an immense territory, communicating with each other by means of good roads and navigable rivers, united by the silken bands of mild government, all respecting the laws without dreading their power, because they are equitable."

GENERAL OGLETHORPE, FOUNDER OF GEORGIA. But if the colonies had all been composed of peaceful agriculturists, the British yoke would have been easy. It was authority to search any house for meron the commercial colonies that the ex- chandise liable to duty, and which were actions of the home government bore most resisted in a celebrated argument by James severely, and hence it was that the East- Otis in 1761. Then came the “ Declara

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »